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Home » Archives » January 2010 » SJ Elephant Goes To Virginia

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01/19/2010: "SJ Elephant Goes To Virginia"

ig_Art_Elephant_Mathew_Gray-001 (52k image)
(SJI butterfly Elephant lowered to pedestal -City of Norfolk Photo )

It must have been tempting for the Virginia Zoo to have placed a story in the "New Arrivals" section of their webpage about having received a life-size elephant sculpture, but they played it straight, and put it in the news section. It is news here too, since the elephant was crafted in San Juan County by local Mathew Gray.

Here is part of what the good folks for the City of Norfolk and the Virginia Zoo published about the project:

This African elephant isn’t a living, breathing creature. She is an incredible piece of art. The life-size elephant sculpture is the latest addition to the City of Norfolk’s Public Art Program. Created by artist Mathew Gray Palmer of Friday Harbor, Washington, the elephant is comprised of over 10,000 thousand delicate, plasma cut aluminum butterflies.

“The Virginia Zoo is thrilled to be selected as a recipient for the public art program,” notes executive director, Greg Bockheim. “Visitors will be mesmerized by the elephant’s size, its powerful tusks and intense eyes. We’re proud to be home to this remarkable piece of art and to be part of the City’s important initiative to make art accessible to the community.”

The artist, who was selected by a panel of judges, visited the Zoo before beginning his project and was impressed by the three African elephants on exhibit as well as the Zoo’s lush gardens, including the butterfly garden. His creation playfully illustrates our interconnection with each other, from the largest terrestrial mammals to the most delicate wind-bound insects. The name of the statue is “All Things Within All Things.”

“This project for the City of Norfolk and the Virginia Zoo provides a tremendous opportunity to reach a wide demographic with multiple layers of meaning,” says Palmer, who is a full-time artist. “There is pleasure at the spectacle of this massive creature composed of such light and delicate creatures.”
The contrast is highlighted by the graceful golden butterfly that rests on the massive elephant’s trunk. On closer inspection, it is clear that the golden butterfly actually is made up of two small elephants!
The statue has been shipped across the country from Washington, and the artist is working with Zoo staff to oversee its installation. E.T. Gresham has donated a crane and operators to help move the elephant into place.

Mayor Paul Fraim will dedicate the new elephant at a ceremony on Saturday, January 16 at 11:00 a.m. at the Virginia Zoo. The ceremony in front of the Zoo is open to the public. Regular admission rates will apply for entrance into the Zoo.

The Norfolk City Council formally established the Public Art Commission and adopted a funding ordinance in 2008. With this project Norfolk joins the more than 350 other municipalities around the country that actively commission artists to create public artwork. Upcoming projects in Norfolk include artwork at Norview Community Center, Coleman Place Elementary School, Lambert’s Point Community Center, the Light Rail and many others.

Tom Bauschke
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